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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America

Plate LXIII. Canvas-back duck. (Fuligula vallisneria.),   pp. 89-92

Page 91

were constructed in crevices between the stones in the walls and
arches of bridges. In several instances the nests were but little
above the surface of the stream. In one, the first laying had been
flooded, and the eggs chilled. The birds had constructed another
nest above the first one, in which were six fresh eggs, as many as
in the other. One nest had been built between the stones of the
wall that formed one of the sides of the flume of a mill; two feet
above it was a frequented footpath, and at the same distance below,
the water of the mill stream. Another nest was between the boards
of a small building in which revolved a water-wheel. The en-
trance to it was through a knot-hole in the outer partition, and the
nest rested on a small rafter between the outer and inner board-
The eggs are usually six in number, pure white, measuring about
.75 by .53 inches.
Rod-breasted Snipe-Gray Snipe. (Macrorhamphus griseus.)
Fig. S.
The Red-breasted Snipe is common throughout North America,
wintering in the Southern States, and as far south as Brazil and
Chili, breeding in Alaska and the Arctic region generally. They
commence their northern migration in April, and return again,
more leisurely, early in the autumn. The nests are built with lit-
tle regard to elegance, consisting of a simple hollow in some grassy
hummock, near or in low-lying marshes, and containing no lining
whatever. The number of eggs is usually four, with ground
color of a grayish-olive, covered all over with numerous heavy
and often massed markings, and measuring about i.62 by 1.12
This bird is a gentle, affectionate, and unsuspicious creature,
always associating in large flocks, flying in compact masses, and
making no efforts to avoid the murderous discharge of the sports-
man's gun. Partially web-footed, it swims with ease short dis-
tances. The food consists of various water-bugs, leeches, worms,
and soft molluscs, besides the seeds of aquatic plants, and when
in good condition, is excellent eating. When in the act of feed-
ing on muddy flats, they probe the ground after the manner of the
American Snipe, probing the soft mud with their bills with sur-
prising rapidity. Their cry when on the wing is a single melan-
choly note, resembling a sort of low, long-pronounced " sweet."
Great Marbled Godwit. (Limosa fedes.)
Fig. 6.
But little is known of the breeding habits of the Great Marbled
Godwit, notwithstanding its widespread distribution, which covers
all of temperate North America, extending into Central and South
America, and the West Indies. It breeds in Missouri and Upper
Missouri regions, in Iowa, Minnesota, and Eastern Dakota. It
nests in open plains, near rivers or pools; the eggs presenting a
clear, light olivaceous-drab, with evenly distributed spots of various
shades of brown, and measuring about 2.28 by i.56 inches. This
Godwit is abundant along most of the Atlantic coast, as far north
as New England. It is found in the greatest numbers, however,
in the West, in the region of the Northern Mississippi and Eastern
Missouri. Dr. Elliot Coues, to whom we are indebted for most of
the above facts, says that "1 in its habits during the incubating sea-
son it most nearly resembles the Curlew, and the two species, of
much the same size and general appearance, might be readily mis-
taken at a distance where the difference in the bill might not be
perceived. On intrusion near the nest, the birds mount in the air
with loud, piercing cries, hovering slowly around with labored
flight, in evident distress, and approaching sometimes within a few
feet of the observer."
Ring-neoked Duok. (Auligu&a colars.)
Fig. 7.
The Ring-neck inhabits the whole of North America, wintering
in the Southern States, and beyond as far as Guatemala, and is an
accidental visitor in Europe. As it breeds in the far north, little
has as yet been learned regarding its habits. It arrives in the
United States about the middle of September, in flocks of from
fifteen to twenty, flying with considerable rapidity, at a great
height, and, from the movement of their wings, producing a con-
stant whistling sound. When suitable food is found, the flesh is
excellent, equaling that of any other Duck, being tender, fat, and
juicy, and destitute of any rank, fishy flavor. They feed by diving
and nibbling among the roots of grasses, varying their diet with
snails, and the different aquatic insects. They swim with great
lightness and ease, and rise from the water without effort. Audu-
bon tells us that " they have an almost constant practice of raising
the head in a curved manner, partially erecting the occipetal
feathers, and emitting a note resembling the sound produced by a
person blowing through a tube. At the approach of spring, the
males are observed repeating this action every now and then while
near the females, none of which seem to pay the least attention to
their civilities."
White-bellied Swallow. (Hirundo bicolor.)
Fig. &
This graceful and friendly little Swallow is found throughout
North America, breeding as far north as the Arctic regions. From
association with man, he has learned new departures, becoming
familiar almost to tameness. In wild regions, it breeds exclusively
in hollow logs and stumps, but on the advent of man it forsakes,
as far as possible, the rural districts, and takes up its abode in
cities and villages. They arrive from the South from the first to
the last of April, but it is not until the middle of May that they
commence building or repairing their nests. Attached to certain
localities, they return year after year to inhabit the same nest. Any
sheltered and accessible place, a rough box, or a knot-hole in a
building, answers their purpose. The nest is a loose, soft, unsym-
metrical affair, formed of soft leaves and hay, and thickly lined
with down and feathers. The eggs are from four to five, of a pure
white color, and about .70 by .50 inches in size. Two broods are
usually, though not always, raised in a season.
These birds are very affectionate to their young, and evince
great solicitude for their safety. They are also extremely pugna-
cious during the breeding season, frequently attacking and driving
away much larger birds. They are most numerous on the sea-
shore, but many are found far inland. A pair for several years
has taken possession of a part of the shelter which protects the
writer, and have cheered many an hour with their sweet and con-
stant chattering.
The myths connected with the Swallow are the most charming
of any in literature, and, reproduced in full, would make a long
and curious chapter.
Purple Sandpiper. (Tringa marilima.)
Fig. g.
This bird is confined mostly to the sea-shore of North America,
extending its wanderings as far south as the Middle States, where
it winters. It is also common on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Like nearly all our water-birds, but little is known of its habits of
incubation, owing to its bringing forth its young in the Arctic re-
ions.  Tts nevre arez nf the usanl nvrifnrm qhnne. and measure
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